As the devastating drought expands in the contiguous United States to cover 63 percent of the lower 48 states, wildfires already have consumed two million acres. July 2012 is one for the record books as one of the hottest in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
During July, the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 77.6 F, which is 3.3 F above the 20th-Century average, making July the hottest month on record for the nation.
The previous hottest July was in 1936 when the average temperature was 77.4 F. Since recording keeping began in 1895, this July stands as the highest temperature for the first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced.
Rain totals hardly made any difference, as the entire U.S. was drier than normal. The national average rainfall for this time of year is 2.57 inches, which was an inch below normal at 0.19. The middle of the nation is suffering extreme drought conditions, while California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Eastern seaboard states are abnormally dry, but not in a severe drought.
Food prices are going to be impacted as the corn, grain and soy bean crops suffer from drought conditions. A new report by the agriculture department is predicting prices will rise modestly, but some vendors are already saying they’re paying more for food. This drought is being categorized as the worst since 1956.
The 2008 food crisis caused global alarm, and this year’s drought is threatening to have the same impact. In a News Day report, food prices, despite the Department of Agriculture report, have increased six percent since last month, and importers are scrambling to buy up the U.S. grain crop, driving prices to a record high for American products and consumers.
"There is potential for a situation to develop like we had back in 2007/08," the Food and Agriculture Organization’s senior economist and grain analyst Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters.
Abundant rice supplies, sluggish economic growth and relatively lower oil prices may also help temper the rally in prices, Abbassian added.
"There is an expectation that this time around we will not pursue bad policies and intervene in the market by restrictions, and if that doesn't happen we will not see such a serious situation as 2007/08. But if those policies get repeated, anything is possible," Abbassian said.
Japan reports that the El Nino phenomenon is already there, which will put a further strain on global food supplies, according to Japan’s official weather bureau.
Russia’s deputy prime minister said they are not banning wheat exports like they did in 2010, but he was cautious not to rule out export tariffs by the end of the year to protect Russian grain supplies.
"What is quite certain is that it is not going to be a season where prices fall below the previous year, which is what we had anticipated," said Abbassian. "It is going to be another season of very high prices."